Kiwi scientists accept they are still a long way from understanding climate change’s effects on the paua and mussel industries and have called for more work to be done.
The teams began studying how New Zealand waters are being affected by higher acid levels in the world’s ocean a decade ago, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research says.
While it is known this is being caused by the ocean’s collecting more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, scientists are still building and merging together their models to accurately explain its affects on New Zealand’s waters.
NIWA marine biogeochemist Professor Cliff Law said scientists started with just basic experiments 10 years ago.
“Now we’re looking at everything together – how changing temperatures, pH levels, nutrient run-off and turbidity for example, are affecting our coastal waters,” he said.
“It’s got more and more complicated as it’s gone on, but what we know is that New Zealand waters are already exposed to ocean acidification and will be subject to further pH stress in the future.”
With a decade of study under the belt, Prof Law said it was now crucial for scientists and policy makers to identify where future research efforts should be directed.
As an example, he said researchers were already studying iconic marine crops, such as green-lipped mussels, paua and snapper, in their habitats in the Firth of Thames, Karitane and Nelson Bays.
They are also looking into whether other species of coastal marine life, such as selectively bred shellfish, would prove more resilient to water changes.
“We are looking for tools and solutions,” Prof Law said.
“The outcome will be better models, allowing more accurate predictions of the impacts of acidification.”